Robin Parrish writes speculative fiction. And in Nightmare he writes Paranormal Speculative Fiction. I read Robin’s first book in the Dominion Trilogy titled Relentless. Through no fault of Robin’s, I misunderstood the back cover copy of the storyline or I wouldn’t have bought the book. It’s no secret I’m not a fan of most varieties of speculative fiction.
Nightmare begins with the first person telling of a trip to a popular amusement park by the name of Ghost Town from Maia Peters who isn’t sure why she agreed to accompany the two girls, one of them last year’s roommate at college. Maia’s parents are world-renowned paranormal specialists so Maia isn’t easily impressed by cheesy attempts at duplicating ghostly events with Hollywood-like special effects in an amusement park’s haunted house. So as the wait in a long line finally gives their group of three entrance to the old house, Maia quickly spots all the gimmicks. But just as their tour is about to conclude, a familiar face appears to Maia and says in the voice to match, “The nightmare is coming” before the girlfriend’s face vanishes into a mist. Soon after this experience Maia learns her friend is missing.
When sought out by the missing girl’s fiancé, Maia engages in an unlikely liaison to find Jordin, the now missing girl who hired Maia to take her to every well-known haunted establishment across the country. Since the wealthy Jordin had the money to foot the bills and buy all the necessary equipment to record and photograph any manifestations, Maia finally agreed to take her. Having grown up visiting these places, Maia’s expertise and usually unflappable demeanor keep Jordin grounded when things get weird.
Jordin’s fiancé Derek maintains his different take on the paranormal activity, and Maia, a Catholic, doesn’t take his Christian perspective seriously, having grown up with precise definitions for specific paranormal experiences and sightings. When a weird mark appears on the back of Jordin’s and another girl’s necks just before they disappear, Maia, Derek, and a curious journalist set out to discover the connection between a corporation out of Copenhagen, a concealed location in upstate New York, and the fleeting appearances of a ghostlike Jordin.
First of all, Robin has done his homework on the paranormal. Each place pictured and described in Nightmare is authentic and documented as a haven for paranormal activity. The descriptions of sightings and the definition of terms used by enthusiasts relay the way these specialists view such things. Since Maia is telling this story, we receive the information as matters of fact. Derek brings in the accepted Christian viewpoint which Maia, although considering herself a believer, disputes. Her condescending attitude toward Derek gradually dissipates as she views his courage and determination to find and rescue the girl he loves.
The speculative concept of this novel demonstrates the workings and possibly the wrestlings of Robin’s mind. He’s a good writer—I thought so with Relentless, but I didn’t share nor do I share his enthusiasm for speculation: contemporary, futuristic, or otherwise. I think he stretches his thinking to interesting proportions, but these expanded concepts stray too far from biblical explanations to even make me wonder “What if?”
Nightmare qualifies as Speculative Paranormal Suspense and will suit young adult/college age readers in particular as I think Robin portrayed the age and overall character of young people accurately. The weakness for me (besides its speculative concept): both Maia and Jordin aren’t particularly attractive characters. Maia is almost cold, too pragmatic, and Jordin is senseless in her obsession, willing to subject herself to the very opposite of what she supposedly believes. Derek is the only admirable character, displaying passion, determination, and an unexplainable devotion to Jordin while maintaining a strong faith in the Lord and His power.